This Sunday, Maui’s Yokouchi Pavilion and A&B Amphitheater will host a historic show blending generations of Hawai‘i’s musical artists onto one stage. [Ed. note: Henry Kapono and Friends has been postponed until September 16 due to Hurricane Lane] The show’s main billing, Henry Kapono, has been the driving force beneath this concept to bring renowned Hawaiian music artists together with the up-and-coming to sing the “Soundtrack of Hawai‘i.” Kapono has sparked a whole new era of C&K fans with a clever recording idea he had brewing with his wife Lezlee Ka‘aihue. That got First Hawaiian Bank interested too.
“It all got started with First Hawaiian Bank about a year and half ago,” says Kapono. “They called us in and asked us if we wanted to do a project with the music community. My wife and I came up with this vision about having the millenials and younger artists do C&K songs, because these songs have been around, thank god, for 45-something years. FHB thought it was a great plan and we went forward and started recording this year.”
The result was a highly successful CD called The Songs of C&K that features tracks from a range of talented young island artists from all sorts of different genres. With ten songs each performed by a new talent, from Kalani Pe‘a, to Starr Kalahiki, to Josh Tatofi, just to name a few, each artist features their connection to a C&K song in the liner notes, and their own take on the music in the track. The CD finishes with a bonus track of the crew singing “Friends” along with Kapono.
“It’s getting a lot of airplay everywhere,” says Kapono. “I am proud of the artists with their participation, respect and love for the music. Their passion for it. The recording has been doing very well. We are really happy. There are people from the mainland trying to get it but they don’t have FHB over there.”
For now the CD and vinyl album is only available by walking into a First Hawaiian Bank. In lieu of that, you can experience some of the music at the concert
this weekend. [Show is postponed to September 16 due to Hurricane Lane]
“We usually do this concert once every two, three years, and it’s usually called “Back In The Day” where we get the all the iconic artists to come and do their hit songs,” says Kapono. “We just thought that maybe it would be a good idea to do ‘Henry Kapono and Friends’ and invite the younger artists as well. For me it becomes like a bridge between both generations where there is a lot of love and respect for all that we have done. I think that is such a great bridge between both gaps. Bringing everyone together as family and friends. That’s what it seems to have been. Everyone is so stoked to be a part of this project and a part of this concert.”
Paula Fuga sings the 10th track, “Song for Someone,” on the album. She remembers the first time she heard the song, the impression it made on her young mind, and how it played a big part in her psyche of songwriting. When Kapono called her at home in Pupukea, before he even had a chance to ask her about the project she felt compelled to share her experience with his song.
“I said ‘Hello’ and he is like ‘Hey Paula this is Henry Kapono,” recalls Fuga. “I was like ‘Oh hi Henry!’ but I was thinking, ‘Oh my god it’s Henry Kapono calling me!’ He said, ‘Hey have you ever heard of my band Cecilio and Kapono?’ I was like ‘Of course I have! I love your guys’ band, are you kidding me?’ but then I said, ‘In fact before you say another word I have to tell you this story.’ and he said, ‘OK.’”
“I was about 4 or 5-years-old, I was cruising with my mom at a friend’s house,” Fuga says. “She and her friend were talking story. She wanted me to be occupied so she puts me in front of the radio, shows me how to change the channel. She was distracting me with electronics, basically. I found the good station and I distinctly remember hearing “Song for Someone” come on. I remember the song, and the way Kapono was describing it. Henry Kapono is such a brilliant songwriter that when he writes, he can describe a scene in the story that he is telling. You know you can see yourself there.”
“I remember all the visuals I had, hearing the lyrics. It is a song about not being able to write a song. It just blew me away. I was like, ‘This is so cool! He is writing a song, about not being able to write a song. One day I am going to write a song like that.’ It’s just so crazy to me looking back that that was one of my first times that I really thought about the songwriting process. I was 4 or 5-years-old, thinking about breaking down a song. I told him that.”
Kapono says every artist had their story about their connection to the songs. He really gave the artist free reign to develop their own sound, and everyone chose a unique song. Fuga says this was a huge lesson in humility and trust.
“In making this project, he told us, now you sing it,” says Fuga. “Our song ended up being 6 minutes. I don’t even know if it will get any time on the radio. Nobody paid attention to the time! We were all just going with the emotion and the feeling of it and it is so raw. For me it was a big lesson in itself to let people take from you. To have that humble attitude, that humble heart, to let somebody take their song, and you know make it yours. Its like copying a painting. It’s not going to be the same. Just the thought that he would let go of the control over his work and let us take the reigns. Give it over to the next generation. It was cool that he let us be ourselves.”
Kapono’s banker suggested that he set up a nonprofit foundation, an idea that he ran with. The Henry Kapono Foundation will earn proceeds from the CD and other projects.
“Our mission for the foundation is to support the community through art and music,” says Kapono. “This allows us to give to other artists and musicians, the community, the schools. Helping kids find their dreams, helping elder musicians with health care. There is so much to do, we just want to try and help and be a part of that situation.”
Fuga says just being a part of this collaboration has already been such a fruitful experience. There was the sweet moment when Kapono got to tell her what “Song for Someone” was about, a day where he tried to write a song for his mom at their home along Kapahulu, but distractions arose.
“What he did for me is incredible. It’s not so much what I learned from him right now, but what he had taught me already. He did that for me in writing that song so long ago. He did that for me when I was four and I was with my mom, and the radio. When I heard it I thought consciously about writing music. Writing my own songs. This is my moment to honor him and that song, and that connection that I feel with it. It was such a special thing to be able to sing it and think of his mother and him. He gave everyone room and space to do whatever they wanted to do.”
For more information or to buy tickets go to Mauiarts.org.
Henry Kapono & Friends concert has been postponed until September 16 due to Hurricane Lane.
HENRY KAPONO & FRIENDS
Kalapana, Jerry Santos (Olomana), Keola Beamer, Nā Leo Pilimehana, John Cruz, Brother Noland, Robi Kahakalau, Alx Kawakami, Blayne Asing, Josh Tatofi, Kalani Pe‘a, Kimié Miner, Landon McNamara, Mike Love, Paula Fuga, and Starr Kalahiki.
September 16, 2018; Gates open at 4pm. Show starts at 5pm.
Tickets: $40/GA ($15/GA for kids 2-12 ); $55, $75/reserved seating; VIP/$150